Coming of age in the Southern bar-band and frat-rock scene, Edwin McCain knows how to deliver a tune. His aching tenor works best when served up raw, brimming with unfiltered emotion. For this reason, Scream and Whisper disappoints, leaving behind the tasty roots rock he seemed on a mission to perfect for an album suffocating beneath a thick coat of Turtle Wax guitar pop.
The singer/songwriter’s latest rejects the pared-down arrangements of last year’s Austin Sessions, offering instead tired re-hashes of the formulas that originally helped him ride the airwaves to gold and platinum sales. The FM-friendly “Say Anything” recaptures the infectious passion of “I’ll Be,” while even the title of “Couldn’t Love You More” is a throwback to his Diane Warren single “I Could Not Ask For More.”
As usual, McCain’s melodies are far better than his lyrics. On “Shooting Stars,” he consults the Dr. Seuss playbook, rhyming “bling bling” with “things,” “rings” and “sting.” That said, the writing on Scream And Whisper definitely suggests some soul-searching in the wake of his being dropped from former label Lava/Atlantic. Songs like “Coming Down” and “Turning Around” speak of his fall from mainstream grace: “I said goodbye to ego and the shame / There’s no use in hiding in that fame.” He also sings of vampires who no longer afford him the respect they once did (perhaps referring to a few vein-sucking industry types).
The record provides an easy listen with pleasant hooks, and the South Carolinian’s raspy vocals still let loose on such tracks as “How Can You Say That To Me” and “Wild at Heart.” Plus, as a testament to the seasoned live performer he’s become, McCain refuses to close the album without at least one cover—a near-perfect rendition of Rod Stewart’s B-side hit “Maggie May.”
But Scream and Whisper fails to provide the contrast its title suggests, offering more of the same from McCain: Top-40 potential and exquisite vocals, albeit here a little over-glossed.